Teacher Spotlight: Pre-K Teacher Rita Malika Ayuma

When Rita Malika Ayuma first applied for a teaching position at the Kibera School for Girls, she was hesitant about teaching in the slum because of the Kibera’s notorious reputation. “When I first came, I was hiding my phone—but I’ve come to learn that’s not the way people think here,” she recounts. After two years as a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at KSG, Rita understands and feels connected to the vibrant community of Kibera: “It’s a nice community, where people love each other. People are friendly and running businesses—working hard for themselves and their families.”

Teacher Rita loves teaching the Pre-K class because they make such a drastic transformation over the course of the year. “They come knowing nothing. They come when they were shy; but now they have courage.” When her students entered the classroom in January, they could not speak a word of English. Over the past eight months Rita has engaged them through songs, games, and hands-on learning, guiding them “from scrambling to writing, from noon to noon. And we are proud.”

Rita grew up in her mother’s classroom at a private school in Nairobi. “My mother was the one who inspired me,” Rita explained. To this day, Rita still spends her weekends with her mother, preparing for the week ahead. Her experience at the private school gives her a unique perspective on KSG, which stands apart from the rest of Kenya’s primary schools. “Everything is better here. Here we give students the chance for hands-on work for critical thinking. We have many materials that even private schools around Nairobi can’t afford.”

“Self-responsibility is so important,” believes Rita, and she is committed to encouraging and cultivating the students’ responsibility towards themselves and others. Though the standard mode of discipline in Kenyan schools is suspension, expulsion, and occasionally corporal punishment, at KSG “we do time out and thinking cushions.” And even though parents volunteer at the school to clean, “the girls don’t want to wait for them to come because it’s distracting…[the students] split the responsibility of sweeping, washing, collecting supplies” for themselves.   

During her two years at KSG, the students’ talents have inspired Rita. At last month’s National Poetry Competition, “Everyone was wondering, ‘which school was this?’ The girls were so impressive and well-behaved. They knew they would win because they have a unique power inside them. They don’t let opportunity pass by. They grasp it!”

Rita’s favorite part about KSG? “I have so many!” she laughed. “It’s always amazing to host visitors, especially the sponsors of our students. We practice yoga with the girls, and I LOVE the Summer Institute [the three-week summer enrichment and volunteer program, which also involves intensive professional development for the teachers]. The girls learn more and I’m learning something too!” As the Pre-K head teacher, Rita is responsible for welcoming students to KSG. From the very beginning, our students are dedicated to and excited about their own education—thanks to our exemplary teachers like Rita!